The value of the medico-legal market fell by 18% to £650m last year because of Covid reducing the number of new personal injury cases and slowing down those already in progress.
A report on the market by IRN Research predicted that it would fall by a further 10% in 2021 before recovering next year, although less so for the lower end of the market affected by the new whiplash regime, which would have a “net negative impact” on them.
It said the “premium” end of the market – high-value catastrophic injuries – declined but held up better in 2020 and was expected to return to growth in 2021. It estimated that catastrophic work accounted for around 22% of market turnover.
The number of experts engaged through MedCo fell by 30% in 2020, meaning payments for initial reports fell from £85m in 2019 to around £59m.
But IRN cautioned that, even if volumes recovered, medico-legal companies faced a number of challenges, including continued pressure on margins as competition intensifies, “with larger groups growing in market power”.
It explained: “These larger groups will be more able, compared with their smaller rivals, to recruit staff and invest in services, especially IT developments.
“The fight for market share will intensify, making it increasingly important for MLIS [medico-legal and insurance services] companies to improve their operational efficiencies and service provision.
“The fight for share will be especially intense with regards to recruting skilled labour, both internal staff and external experts and case managers.”
Other challenges included potential long-term changes to working practices because of Covid, and “greater need for financial resources to invest in new IT systems to improve client and freelance/contractor engagement”.
In a separate development in the personal injury world, Minster Law has signed an exclusive five-year partnership with esure Group to service motor personal injury and legal claims across the esure and Sheila’s Wheels brands.
The Yorkshire-based law firm works exclusively within the insurance sector. Chief executive Shirley Woolham said: “We were struck by esure’s genuine desire to find new and innovative ways of using technology to drive greater integration across the claims supply chain, to remove friction and deliver the best customer experience in the market.”
Graham Hughes, esure’s chief claims officer, added: “We were impressed by Minster Law’s appetite to look at motor claims differently and capability to provide a digital offering for our customers.
“We have a shared desire to support our customers at a stressful time. The recent reform in motor personal injury is an opportunity to ‘iron out’ poor practises and simplify the claims journey.”